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Black Ribbon’s Best Films of 2017: Part Two

Best Films of 2017: 10-1

10. The Handmaiden

With stunning set locations and gorgeous costume design, Park Chan-wook’s deliciously twisty and beautifully made romantic thriller is a real cinematic sight to behold. Based upon Sarah Waters’ novel “Fingersmith”, the Korean’s latest is a multi-layered mystery with a wavering narrative which keeps you gripped and guessing right until the end. Featuring recognisable elements from his previous work on the excellent Vengeance trilogy, The Handmaiden may not be Chan-wook’s boldest movie to date, but boy is it his most richest and bewilderingly erotic.

9. Get Out

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut in the form of Get Out is a crowd pleasing black comedy horror which dwells into social commentary regarding notions of racism within the heart of the white picket fenced home of the Armitage family. With a standout leading performance by Daniel Kaluuya, rib-tickling gags and an underlying narrative regarding a very particular medical operation, Peele’s movie balances the mix between comedy and horror flawlessly, and with enough B-movie elements and exploitation gore to make the whole experience more than rewarding, Get Out solidifies Peele as yet another interesting young director to keep tabs on.

8. mother!

Hated by most, loved by a minority, Darren Aronofsky’s jaw-dropping psychological horror is part Funny Games, part Rosemary’s Baby, and with a career best performance from leading star Jennifer Lawrence, mother! is a brutal and nihilistic allegorical work of excellence which is as tough to watch at times as it is completely and utterly bonkers in a fashion which makes the final act of Black Swan look like a Mike Leigh movie. For those who can stomach the movie’s polarising subject matter and the evasive camera work of long term Aronofsky collaborator, Matthew Libatique, mother! is Aronofsky at his most creative best.

7. Raw

Directed by big screen debutante Julia Ducournau, Raw is an intelligently written and brilliantly acted coming of age drama with a central narrative which focuses on leading star Garance Marillier’s hereditary and new found lust for human flesh which materialises after a particularly strange university ritual. With a number of scenes which feature genuinely shocking ultra violent imagery and an underlying black comedic tone which gives the movie a somewhat kooky, subversive feel to it, Raw is yet another superb debut for a filmmaker with, excuse the pun, exquisite raw talent.

6. It

Undoubtedly one of the greatest and most loyal Stephen King adaptations to hit the big screen, Andy Muschietti’s live action take on the novelist’s best story to date is an outstanding mix of spine-tingling horror, creature feature adventure and coming of age drama which matches the tone and feel of King’s writing to an uncanny tee. With Bill Skarsgård giving the most iconic performance of his entire career as the malevolent and undeniably haunting image of Pennywise the Dancing Clown, It manages to not only measure its’ horror elements to a genre pleasing effective degree but features too the greatest ensemble cast of young actors in years. With Muschietti on course to direct Chapter Two, the concluding half of King’s tale is indeed in the safest of filmmaking hands.

5. Manchester By The Sea

With a leading performance from Casey Affleck which can only be regarded as one of the most deserved Oscar winning roles in recent history as the grieving and emotionally unstable Lee Chandler, Kenneth Lonergan’s low-key masterpiece is a character study of brilliant proportions. Charged by a narrative which is as gut-wrenchingly powerful as it is flawlessly written, Manchester By The Sea might not seem the flashiest film on the surface, but with each and every player at the top of their respective game, Lonergan’s movie works on a level of relatability and subtlety which is rare to find in the current cinematic climate.

4. Moonlight

Recipient of the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, Barry Jenkins’ lucid and dreamlike tale of one man’s journey from youth to manhood is a dramatic work of unprecedented proportions featuring superbly understated supporting performances from both Oscar winner Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris. With a jukebox soundtrack and stunning cinematography, Jenkin’s independant delight is hard to shake off even after repeat viewings, and for a director so young in years and filmic back catalogue, Moonlight is an impressive work of cinematic art.

3. Dunkirk

After tackling space, spies and Batman, Christopher Nolan takes his enviable talents to Dunkirk, a spectacular, IMAX-fuelled masterpiece which favours the use of practical design over digital effects, sound and image over dialogue and an impressively handled three act structure reminiscent of the time-bending narrative of Nolan’s previous work on Memento. With scenes which evoke a wide spectrum of emotions throughout its’ note perfect runtime, Nolan’s movie is a tense and taut war epic unlike anything seen before on the big screen and whilst it is indeed best course of action to devour the spectacle on the largest backdrop you can find thanks to Nolan’s personal fondness of the mighty IMAX, Dunkirk is not the first masterpiece to come from Nolan and I’m sure it won’t be his last.

2. Blade Runner 2049

A sequel to the greatest science fiction movie of all time needed to be something special, and in the hands of Arrival director Denis Villeneuve there was little doubting it wouldn’t be, but what we have with Blade Runner 2049 however is a movie which surpasses even the highest of anticipation, a beautifully bold and emotionally riveting masterpiece of sound, spectacle and art house wonder which rewrites the rule book for what it means to be a big budget production. With Villeneuve not only paying homage to Ridley Scott’s original in a more than respectable fashion but adding his own distinguishable DNA to the mix, the flawless work of Roger Deakins, Hans Zimmer and leading stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford result in Blade Runner 2049 being a deserved science fiction masterpiece in its’ own right and one which will stand the test of time in a fashion similar to its’ equally masterful predecessor.

1. La La Land

Following up on Black Ribbon’s best movie of 2015 in the form of Whiplash, Damien Chazelle’s beautifully romantic and stunningly swooning musical drama is a cinematic wonder of enigmatic proportions. With a cross of paths between the doe eyed dreamer figure of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s eccentric and passionate jazz extraordinaire, the narrative moves from the charming first acquaintance to a sombre, heartbreaking concluding act which is just a masterclass in flawless and natural filmmaking ability. The songs are sumptuous, the editing silky smooth and the location design a dreamlike ode to the history of Hollywood, La La Land isn’t just a masterpiece, it’s Black Ribbon’s film of the year and deservedly so.

Film Review: Manchester By The Sea

“I Can’t Beat It. I Can’t Beat It, I’m Sorry…”

Arriving on a weekend packed to the rafters with a wide range of movie releases, the release of Manchester By The Sea carries with it the annoyingly unavoidable air of hype which has engulfed it over the past few months or so, resulting in an inevitable array of Golden Globe nominations as well as being tipped as one of the top contenders for the upcoming Academy Awards which takes place next month. Directed by Kenneth Lonergan, whose previous credits include screenplays for Gangs of New York and Analyze This, Manchester By The Sea follows in the footsteps of La La Land by being a film which lives up to its’ high expectations, a touching tale of loss, sorrow and the chance of redemption held together by a simply outstanding performance from Casey Affleck who undoubtedly will walk away with the Oscar for Best Actor next month, and a sharp, snappy screenplay which dissects the everyday notions of family and friendship upon an overarching melancholic plot thread which acts as the central cornerstone of a movie seeped in utterly believable human emotion.

Cowering throughout the movie in an unbearable understated embodiment of repressed emotion, Affleck’s Lee Chandler is a complex shadow of a character, one who is brought back to his titular homeland after the death of his brother and one whose societal absence verges on the edge of a complete dissociation with anyone around who shows him the slightest bit of attention. Add into the mix Lucas Hedge’s Patrick, the son of Lee’s lost brother, and the film begins to unravel a parallel between the past and the future, one which balances out loss with a chance of redemption for a character who could easily burst into a complete and utter meltdown at any moment throughout the film. Subsequently, the commanding performance of Affleck ironically leads to the film’s only real setback, with Michelle Williams strangely seeming rather absent and underused, alongside other characters which come and go rather too swiftly. Ultimately, Manchester By The Sea is Affleck’s movie entirely and the down-to-earth dramatic turns and realist decisions by his character result in a film which is up there with the most rewarding dramas to be released in recent memory and for a film which is just under two and a half hours, it seemed strange to be leaving the cinema by actually wanting more, the sign of a cracker if ever there was one.

Overall Score: 9/10